Leftover CCC Football Thoughts: Can Endicott win a third-straight crown?

Endicott College quarterback Clayton Marengi will be a player to watch on the Gulls in 2023. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan

Another season of New England small college football has concluded, which means it is time to look back and reflect on what we learned from covering not one, but five NCAA Division III conferences.

Our 2022 rewind – well, more leftover thoughts, to be exact – begins with a simple question: Can Endicott College win its third-straight Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC)?

My initial answer is yes – expect the Gulls to contend for another CCC title next fall.

The Gulls clinched their first-ever undefeated regular season (10-0) in program history this fall, thanks to a defense that pitched four shutouts.

Entering their initial postseason contest with Springfield College earlier this month, Endicott’s defense had yielded 6.5 points per game in 10 contests – sure, they allowed more than a touchdown in their final two contests to the Pride and Western New England, but this unit has potential to be even better next season.

Endicott’s defense will look different next fall but expect Hector Johnson to continue his success from this season, which saw the Worcester, Massachusetts native tally 21.5 tackles for a loss, including 14.5 sacks. Johnson will lead a unit that will feature linebacker Matthew Licciardi, strong safety Zachariah Twardosky, and defensive lineman Colin Meropoulos.

Halfback Yavier Cosme-Diaz and quarterback Clayton Marengi will be two players to watch on offense next fall with the duo combining for 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 contests this season. Marengi added 15 passing touchdowns while completing 146 of 230 passes for 1,667 yards with four of those scores landing in the hands of wide receiver Shane Aylward.

The Endicott offense averaged 355.2 yards per game, which was the third best average amongst the seven CCC squads.

With some key returners expected to return, along with some new recruits, Endicott should be able to contend for a third-straight conference title. But don’t be surprised if Husson University or Western New England provide the Blue and Green with some challenges along the way.

Additionally, one should not count out the University of New England, which has certainly improved every season since its initial campaign in 2018.

One other team to watch next fall in the CCC is Curry College. Can the Colonels begin to make the climb under soon-to-be second-year coach Todd Parsons?

Finally, one team that won’t stand in the way of potential three-peat is Salve Regina University, which is joining the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) next school year as a full-time member.

Wingfield, Ithaca top Springfield in NCAA D3 Second Round

Ithaca College quarterback A.J. Wingfield tallied 256 yards of total offense on Saturday against Springfield College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Rich Barnes)

By NoontimeSports.com

An exciting few weeks of Springfield College football have come to an end.

The Pride’s 2022 campaign concluded this afternoon with a 31-20 setback to No. 9/10 Ithaca College in the second round of the NCAA Division III postseason.

Ithaca has now won 18 games against the Pride at Butterfield Stadium, along with 30 of 39 contests, dating back to the initial meeting between the two schools in 1973.

Quarterback A.J. Wingfield tallied 256 yards of total offense, including a team-high 88 yards on 15 carries. Wingfield and Billy Tedeschi combined for two passing touchdowns with both scores landing in the hands of Jalen Leonard-Osbourne, who led all receivers with four receptions for 101 yards.

Leonard-Osbourne’s second touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter provided Ithaca with a 28-20 lead that expanded by three points with a 19-yard field goal by Nicholas Bahamonde with 4:22 left in the fourth.

Springfield’s Joseph Cannizzaro and Armando Torres combined for 209 rushing yards and one touchdown while Arsen Shtefan added 45 yards on 10 carries.

DJ Brown, who led the Pride’s defense with 14 total tackles, intercepted Wingfield on the game’s fourth play for a 45-yard pick-six.

Christian Hutra recorded eight points off two field goals and two extra points. Hutra’s initial field goal – a 23-yard boot with 8:55 remaining in the opening session – provided the Pride with a 10-7 lead after one quarter.

Springfield secured a date with Ithaca following its first postseason win in 16 years last week when the Pride topped Endicott College, 17-14. One week earlier, the Maroon and White clinched their third New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown in five years.

Ithaca, which has not dropped a game since losing to Cortland last November, will attempt to continue its winning ways next week against No. 1/1 North Central.

The Cardinals earned a quarterfinal date with the Bombers by beating No. 15/19 Carnegie Mellon, 28-7.

Rankings from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D3Football.com

Five New England College Football Teams That Surprised Us This Fall

Phil Lutz enjoyed a very successful senior season with the Tufts University football team. (PHOTO COURTESY: Tufts University Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Every season, there are a handful of New England college football teams that surprise me.

Sure, there are the favorites, along with squads many expect to contend for a conference crown – perhaps a national championship? – but with another season of college football slowly winding down, I thought I would highlight five teams that exceeded my preseason expectations.

Assumption University: The Greyhounds enjoyed one of their better seasons this fall, winning eight games to go with their first Northeast-10 Conference crown in five years. Additionally, Assumption advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs where their run toward a national title concluded in the opening round with a 17-14 setback to Slippery Rocky.  

Sure, losing in the first round is not an ideal way to conclude a season, but perhaps this year’s effort is a sign of more exciting things to come for coach Andy McKenzie’s squad.

McKenzie and his staff deserve credit for a successful season after posting a 5-5 record last fall, including a 5-3 record against NE10 foes. The fifth-year coach was tabbed the NE10 Coach of the Year last Wednesday while three members of the Assumption defense earned First-Team All-Conference honors, including linebacker Lorenzo Valencia.

Plymouth State: The last time the Panthers won nine games, they were sharing the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown with Framingham State.

Plymouth State clinched its ninth win this past weekend, thanks to a come-from-behind 21-20 win over Husson University in the New England Bowl.

Halfbacks Manny Sanchez and Willie Lombard were a big reason why the Panthers were in the mix for a conference crown as the duo combined for 20 rushing touchdowns and 1,343 rushing yards.

Jake Donahue led the receiving core with 38 catches for 562 yards and six touchdowns while Evan Wilson paced the defense with 80.0 total tackles, including 49 solo stops and a team-best nine tackles for a loss of 25 yards.

21 seniors made-up this year’s Plymouth State squad, along with six graduate students. It is possible we could see a few of these student-athletes return next season – the NCAA granted student-athletes an extra year of eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tufts University: After producing back-to-back 4-5 seasons, the Jumbos concluded its 2022 campaign with six wins and three losses.

Wide receiver Phil Lutz was a big reason why the Jumbos enjoyed their best season since 2018 as the North Caldwell, New Jersey native finished the year with 78 catches for 1,221 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lutz averaged 15.7 yards per catch and established a new single-season record for touchdown receptions in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

Lutz is currently one of 15 NCAA Division III student-athletes being considered for this year’s Gagliardi Trophy.

Quarterback Michael Berluti enjoyed his best year under center, throwing for a career-high 2,749 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Westwood, Massachusetts native completed a career-best 197 passes and averaged 305.4 passing yards per game.

The Jumbos’ 2022 momentum should carry over to the next season, which should help Tufts contend for its first-ever NESCAC crown.

University of Connecticut: The Huskies exceeded my expectations.

Coach Jim Mora guided UConn to its first six-win season in seven years to provide the Huskies with an additional contest this fall: their first bowl game since 2015.

The Huskies’ regular season concluded with a 34-17 loss to Army last weekend, but it was highlighted by halfback Victor Rosa, who rushed for a career-high 111 yards and a touchdown.

Prior to ending their regular season with a two-score setback, UConn scored three-straight wins over Boston College (13-3), UMass (27-10), and Liberty University (36-33).

No matter what transpires in UConn’s upcoming bowl game, the Huskies are heading in the right direction, thanks to their first-year coach.

University of New Hampshire: After concluding its 2021 campaign with an eight-game losing streak, the Wildcats bounced back to share the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) crown with William & Mary while earning a spot in this weekend’s NCAA FCS Tournament.

First-year coach Rick Santos guided the Navy Blue and White to an eight-win season this fall, along with a 7-1 conference mark.

Santos was tabbed the CAA Coach of the Year on Tuesday while halfback Dylan Laube collected a trio of end-of-season honors, including a spot on the All-Conference First team as a punt returner.  

Laube will be one of a few players to watch this Saturday, November 26 when the Wildcats entertain Fordham University.

Noontime’s New England D3 Top 10 Poll (Nov. 21, 2022)

The Springfield College football team clinched its first postseason win in 16 years this past weekend against Endicott College. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By NoontimeSports.com

Another season of New England small college football is slowly winding down.

Springfield College highlighted the 12th week of the season, winning its first NCAA Division III playoff game since 2006 with a hard-fought 17-14 win over Endicott College.

The Pride secured a spot in the second round of this year’s national playoffs. Springfield will travel to Ithaca College on Saturday, November 26 with kickoff scheduled for 12 p.m.

Springfield and Endicott secured the top two spots in our end-of-season poll followed by Trinity College, which checked-in third with a 9-0 record.

UMass Dartmouth and Plymouth State rounded out the top five.

Noontime’s End of Season Top 10 Poll: Monday, November 21, 2022

1. Springfield College (9-2, 6-0 NEWMAC): The Pride clinched their second-straight New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown with a 6-0 record, as well as won their first postseason contest in 16 years this past weekend against Endicott. Springfield will compete in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament this Saturday, November 26 against Ithaca.

2. Endicott College (10-1, 6-0 CCC): Despite ending its season with an opening-round postseason setback, the Gulls were the team to watch this fall. Endicott produced its first perfect season (10-0) in program history, as well as claimed its second-straight Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) crown. Additionally, Endicott’s defense limited opposing offenses to just 6.5 points per game in 10 contests.

3. Trinity College (9-0, 9-0 NESCAC): The Bantams became the third-straight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) squad to clinch a perfect 9-0 season. Trinity’s defense was a unit to watch this season, yielding just 98 points in nine games while the Bantams’ offense ranked second in touchdowns (40) and points (301).  

4. UMass Dartmouth (9-2, 8-0 MASCAC): UMass Dartmouth made its first appearance in the national tournament in 20 years by winning its first Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown earlier this month. The Corsairs have won 14 of their last 16 conference tilts, dating back to last season’s initial league clash with Worcester State.

5. Plymouth State (9-2, 6-2 MASCAC): The Panthers concluded their 2022 campaign by winning their first-ever New England Bowl on Saturday with a come-from-behind victory over Husson University. Plymouth State won nine games for the first time since sharing the MASCAC crown in 2017 with Framingham State.

6. Middlebury College (7-2, 7-2 NESCAC): Coach Bob Ritter’s tenure may have concluded with a setback to Tufts University, but the Panthers exceeded our expectations, winning seven of nine contests, including an impressive late September win over Wesleyan University. Middlebury has recorded five wins or more in its last five seasons, including a 9-0 campaign in 2019.

7. Western Connecticut (7-3, 6-2 MASCAC): The Wolves were the biggest surprise of the 2022 season, winning seven games after concluding the 2021 season with five wins. Western Connecticut was one of the top three offenses in the MASCAC, averaging 383.7 yards per contest.

8. Tufts University (6-3, 6-3 NESCAC): Like Western Connecticut, Tufts was a pleasant surprise, as well, thanks to an impressive quarterback-wide receiver duo of Michael Berluti and Phil Lutz that helped the Jumbos offense conclude its nine-game season with a league-best 306 points.

9. Wesleyan University (6-3, 6-3 NESCAC): The Cardinals’ season ended with a difficult setback to rival Trinity – Wesleyan did lead Trinity, 14-10, at the break before the momentum shifted to the Bantams in the second half. Wesleyan’s biggest victory of the season occurred in mid-October when they beat Tufts under the lights by a score of 26-24.

10. Bridgewater State University (7-4, 6-2 MASCAC): The Bears closed out their 2022 campaign with a three-game winning streak, which culminated with their second New England Bowl victory in program history this past weekend. Bridgewater State was one of three MASCAC teams to post a 6-2 conference record – additionally, the Red and White ranked second in the conference in yards per game (415.1).

Holy Cross, New Hampshire Advance To The NCAA FCS Tournament

Matthew Sluka and the Holy Cross football team secured the eighth seed in this year’s NCAA FCS Tournament. ((PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

A pair of New England NCAA Division I FCS teams are headed to the postseason.

Holy Cross and New Hampshire heard their names called Sunday afternoon when the NCAA unveiled its 24-team tournament.

The Crusaders were one of eight teams to earn a spot in the second round – Holy Cross clinched its first 11-0 season in 31 yesterday after capturing its fourth-straight Patriot League title earlier this month with a 42-14 win over Lehigh University.

Holy Cross will host the winner of New Hampshire-Fordham University, which is scheduled to commence Saturday, November 26 at 2 p.m. The Wildcats will host the Rams after concluding their regular season as co-champions of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

William & Mary shared the CAA title with the Wildcats after New Hampshire outlasted Maine and the Tribe beat Richmond.

Like Holy Cross, William & Mary earned a first-round bye and will compete against the winner of Eastern KentuckyGardner-Webb.   

Holy Cross is making its four-straight appearance in the NCAA FCS Tournament. The Crusaders boast a 1-4 record in postseason play with their initial playoff win occurring last November with a come-from-behind victory over Sacred Heart University.

New Hampshire last competed in the FCS Tournament in 2017, winning back-to-back contests against Central Connecticut (14-0) and Central Arkansas (21-15) before falling to South Dakota State in the quarterfinals.  

In 2014, the Wildcats competed against the Rams of Fordham in the second round, scoring a 44-19 win, which was followed by a quarterfinal victory against Chattanooga. Illinois State ended New Hampshire’s championship run in the semifinals.